Salmon habitat protection dominates Kodiak town hall; Rep. Ortiz of Ketchikan Attends
By MARY KAUFFMAN
August 26, 2017
HB 199 proposes updates to Alaska’s 60-year-old law governing what kinds of impacts from development are allowed to salmon habitat, creating clear standards for protection and giving Alaskans a voice in the protection of wild salmon habitat. More than half of questions and commentary expressed their support of the bill, citing the importance of responsible development balanced with wild salmon habitat protection.
Also joining in the community forum in Kodiak was Ketchikan Rep. Dan Ortiz (I). The forum was also attended by Reps. Bryce Edgmon, Gerran Tarr, Zach Fansler, Adam Wool, along with representatives from the Walker Administration, and local fishermen.
Mike Friccero, a Bristol Bay skipper and board president for the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association (BBRSDA), identified the protection of salmon habitat as a key concern for the coastal community. “This place (Alaska) has always been about fish. HB 199 will help us keep it that way.”
According to Sand for Salmon, a diverse group of Alaska-based individuals, businesses and organizations. the health of the state’s wild salmon populations is a key concern in Kodiak, one of the state’s largest fishing communities. In 2015, the approximate revenue from salmon fishing in the area was $3.2 million, with commercial fishing and processing accounting for 55 percent of the private sector workforce. A 2016 poll identified that 75 percent of Alaskans statewide think more should be done to protect the strong legacy of Alaska salmon for future generations.
“I stand for salmon too,” House Speaker Bryce Edgmon assured the audience. “After 60 years, we think it is time to take a look at Title 16.”
However, there are others who have expressed opposition to HB199, “An Act establishing general fish and wildlife permits and major and minor anadromous fish habitat permits for certain activities; establishing related penalties; and relation to the protection of fish and game and fish and game habitat.”
In a letter to Rep. Stutes dated April 10, 2017, Karen Matthias Executive Director of Council of Alaska Producers wrote that CAP opposes HB199 because it would shut down responsible resource development projects across the state, jeopardize the continuation or expansion of existing operations, delay and add costs to road construction and other state infrastructure projects, and it would inhibit community development. The real fiscal impact of this bill would be staggering.
CAP is a non-profit trade association formed in 1992 and serves as a spokesperson for the large metal mines and major metal developmental projects in the state.
Matthias wrote, HB199 is the wrong solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. Alaska already has a world class permitting system that is based on science and applied consistently. This bill creates a new permitting program that is more stringent than the applicable federal laws without giving any reason why the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act are deemed insufficient to project fish habitat and wildlife in Alaska.
A broad coaliton of entities, with very diverse interests, also wrote the Alaska Legislature to share their deep concern with House Bill 199 in a letter dated April 10, 2017. Included in this coalition are Southeast Conference, the Alaska Chamber of Commerce, the Alaska Forest Association, and many others.
Also opposing HB 199, Deantha Crockett Executive Director of the Alaska Miners Association wrote in a letter dated April 12, 2017, "The safeguarding of fish species at Alaska’s mining projects is a success story. HB199 suggests significant regulatory problems that simply do not exist. HB199 proposes a massive rewrite of fish habitat regulation that is not only a solution in search of a problem, but is an all out shut down of community and economic development. The provisions in HB199 would ensure that development of new mines, oilfields, wastewater plants, highways, and more would not be built. At a time of billion dollar deficits, these are not the kinds of bills Alaskans should be pursuing."
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